Woodnewton is a beautiful location just outside of Uxbridge, Ontario. It has been an Ontario Cup location over the last few years and this is the first year it would be a dry course. I was excited that, for once, I wouldn’t be struggling through the mud. I was also anxious since it has its share of challenges for me…including the well-known pinball rock garden. I narrowly escaped crashing on it last year and it had its share of victims during the preride this year.
My mind wandered on the drive up to the race with my husband. News earlier in the week of a few cyclists passing away due to cancer and a fatal incident with a car weighed heavy on my heart. I decided in the car that I would take their passionate spirits with me in the race. As a cancer survivor, I have been given a gift. I have the daily reminder that it is a privilege to be alive regardless of the struggles I face. I need to show respect for that privilege. I get the opportunity to continue to ride my bike, feel the pain in my legs and my heart pounding in my chest. This was another chance to crush any excuses to not do my best and do more than just race.
Arriving at Woodnewton, I felt supercharged. The energy in the air was amazing. There were psyched riders everywhere. Unlike last year, people were socializing and laughing under a nearly flawless blue sky. I was excited to have the time to catch up with friends and cheer them on as they started their race.
Warming up was easy with summer like temperatures. My warmup music kept me focused as I closed my eyes (I was on my trainer!) and put my thoughts on how to best ride the course. There were a lot of dips, sharp turns, steep hill climbs, fast downhills and deep sand to contend with. There is also, of course, the rock garden that makes my heart beat fast just by thinking about it. I don’t know if Rhonda from Erace Cancer Cycling Team sensed my anxiety but she popped her music into my ears and shared some rockin’ tunes that I could repeat in my head while out on the course. I was back on track and before I knew it, we were heading to the start line.
I was so excited at the start line to be surrounded again by such incredible women racing. The laughter and joy was overflowing.with so many friends and supporters coming to wish everyone a good race. I shared my newest addition to my bike with friends….pieces of tape across my bar….one said “Believe” and the other said “Strong!” These words are filled with power and direction when the mind begins to be filled with doubt!
The start was incredibly fast. I had to pull back a bit when my heart rate maxed out. It didn’t take long to get into the groove though. I quickly found the perfect pace for me and caught up to some of the women who have amazing sprinting power at the start. My Opus Fhast1 was so responsive I felt like I was on a slingshot. Every pedal stroke gave back incredible return and accelerating up the hills was fantastic. I love how my 29’er moves through the trails. It performed flawlessly in the one area that caused me grief the year before….the pinball rock garden!
This man-made challenge can jettison the best riders. It has the ability to shoot riders in unpredictable directions…which generally involved another unforgiving rock. Coming around the corner before the rock garden, I told myself, “Face your fears…it picked the wrong bitch!” I kept my focus on the end of the bump-fest and kept repeating “Believe Jany, believe!” Suddenly, one lap was done and I was psyched!
I kept pushing hard through the hills and when my legs were burning and I was struggling to breathe….I could see the faces of those that lost their lives. I quickly lost the urge to pull back and became stronger and more driven. This was temporary pain and I got to feel it…I was good with that.
The twists and turns became seamless and my inner dialogue of “never surrender!” stayed on repeat. Riders let me pass with ease and I could hear the crowd yelling “Go, Yawnee, Go!” This mispronunciation of my name has stuck with the crowd and I like it to stay that way….there is no other “Yawnee” in the race!
After 3 laps of incredible riding and three successful runs on the pinball machine I was blasting it into the finish. I had no idea who might be behind me but I wasn’t giving anyone a chance to catch up. In my hardest gear, I gave it all. I’m sure I resembled a raging bull as I pedalled furiously across the finish line. Wiping the drool from my mouth and trying to catch my breath, my husband told me I came in first. The tears welled up in my eyes. I was overcome with the emotions of the day and that fact that I got to be on the podium again.
I got to share another spectacular day with incredible friends and it is because of their support on and off the course that helps fulfill my dreams. We are on different teams with the same goals; embrace our passion for life, do our best at whatever we put our minds too and build a positive community with lasting friendships.
1st place is an amazing place to be and is never achieved alone!